Disconnect or deceit?


unexplained disconnect or unacceptable deceit?

This article gives more detail and background on the Residents Newsletter published by the Riverside Residents (Staines) Coalition this morning (16 June 2021).

Spelthorne Borough Council’s new Planning Committee will determine next week (23 June) an application by Inland Homes for a twin-towers development (13 and 15 storeys) for 206 small flats close to the river frontage. This was announced yesterday, two weeks before the close of the ongoing public consultation on the future development of Staines. It is one of five tower block developments currently in the pipeline for sites at or close to the river frontage (click here).

There is a profound disconnect between the plans and proposals already announced by the Council and both the current public consultation on the future development of Staines and its supporting ‘Objectives and Options Report’. Both suggest that more tower-block developments in Staines are only options under consideration. The consultation survey asks residents whether they want them – with specific questions relating to sites at or close to the river frontage.

We have been trying to secure a clear answer to this obvious disconnect since last summer when the Council’s plans for tower-blocks and a massive population increase in Staines began to emerge. It is claimed that the results of the consultation will influence how the town is developed in future; but that won’t be finalised for about another year. In the meantime the Inland Homes development and other tower blocks currently under discussion with developers can be approved and precedents will have been set for others. In other words, the Council will have held the stable door open for the rest of us to watch helplessly as the horses bolt.

The town’s proximity to Heathrow imposes an effective height limit of 15-storeys. So in our latest attempt to get to the bottom of this we have asked Council officers (2 June) a simple question ‘What planning policies or other legal devices could be employed to limit the height of buildings in Staines below that imposed by proximity to Heathrow?’. If the answer is that there are none until the new town plan is finalised, the public consultation will be seen as a deliberate and unconscionable deceit. If limits can be imposed, the community and the Councillors elected to represent Staines residents must be told. Either way, we hope Councillors elected to represent residents’ interests will speak up as they did in voting unanimously last December for a moratorium on high-rise developments and during last month’s election when they pledged to oppose more tower-block developments in the town, particularly in the Staines Conservation Area and at or overlooking the river frontage.

Objectives and Options Report
The public consultation on the future development of Staines invites those taking part in the survey to read the ‘Objectives and Options Report’ for context. It is a comprehensive and comforting review of the town’s current amenities and character, it sets out a range of objectives relating to its perceived strengths and weaknesses, and it identifies a diversity of so-called “options”.

The Report talks in glowing terms about the river and its frontage being “undoubtedly the town centre’s most significant asset and forms a distinctive part of its character.” It talks about the potential “detrimental” effect on this of new developments “if design and scale is not considered carefully”. It asks “Should the Development Framework limit development adjoining the riverside” by, for example, “limiting heights and massing of buildings near the riverside”.

Elsewhere the Report says the consultation must consider “ensuring the character and distinctiveness of the town is retained”. It sets out six key objectives. These include “protecting the existing valued built environment and green spaces”, and the importance of considering “key views in and around the town centre, especially the historic buildings such as St Mary’s church and the Town Hall”.

The Report’s only direct reference to high-rise developments is in a section that shows examples from other towns to illustrate a wide range of different types of development. Only two relate to developments higher than nine storeys and they show buildings of only ten and 12 storeys. A more honest approach would surely have been to use the illustrations of actual 13 – 15-storey developments already proposed and published for Staines (per the attached click here for Bridge Street car Park and Hanover House, the Old Telephone Exchange and Masonic Hall, and Thameside House

Public consultation survey
Covid-19 restrictions have severely limited the scope of the consultation to an on-line and paper survey. Participation in this has been further constrained by two factors: 1) A promotional flyer was to have been delivered to every residence by Royal Mail during the first week of the six-week consultation. However, as we have reported to the Council, this has been very patchy at best – and not only for households represented by our coalition of six riverside residents’ organisations. 2) At 33 pages, and with the recommendation that the 25-page Objectives and Options Report be read prior to completing it, participation in the survey is a daunting and time-consuming task.

The consultation questionnaire presents a wide range of options that it indicates are under review:

  • It shows example illustrations, all of them in our view distortions of either height or context. One illustrates a 15-storey block as less than twice the height of a neighbouring building of four or five storeys. The illustration of apartment blocks of “6 – 9 storeys” is only six storeys high. Only one of the illustrations of tower-blocks “up to 15 storeys” is actually 15 storeys … and its perspective and context bears little relationship to what would be the reality of such developments in Staines. It would surely have been more honest to use the illustrations of actual developments contracted or proposed for Staines (per the attached click here for the Bridge Street Car Park and Hanover House, the Old Telephone Exchange and Masonic Hall, and Thameside House).

It asks three questions about high-rise: “Do you feel any of these types of development might not be suitable in the town centre, including the riverside?”, “Do you have a view on whether upper limits on building heights within the town centre should be set”, and “Do you think there should be limitations on the height and size of buildings close to the river frontage?”


We believe the Council therefore has two options:

  • Declare and enforce a moratorium on all high-rise developments pending finalisation of the ‘Staines Development Framework’, or
  • Admit that the consultation and its supporting Objectives and Options Report may have no impact at all on how the town is developed.
    Our petition among Staines residents calling on Spelthorne Borough Council to spread the planned housing growth target more evenly across the borough and prevent tower-block developments in the Staines Conservation Area or overlooking the riverfront already has close to 3,000 signatures.